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Aircraft Review : Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT by Ted Cook Productions

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Aircraft Review : Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT by Ted Cook Productions

 

There was a time when you went to a field, yes only a green grass field, you climbed into a machine and flew to another green field at your destination. There was no carparking, no security, no scanners, no food courts, no flight boards, no wifi, no boarding gates, no airbridges, no taxi holding, no waiting in line to takeoff, no holding patterns, all you did was pass over your bags and got into an aircraft and flew in the air... it was the first "Golden age of Air Travel".

 

It was impossibly dangerous as well? The machines were to say very are very basic, flying was rough, noisy and the chances of you crashing in bad weather were very high...  but it was all very exciting as well.

 

These were first all metal aircraft after the earlier even more dangerous fabric and wire designs. The all metal construction was pioneered by a German called Professor Hugo Junkers with his Junkers J1. Clever advanced manufacturing in control surfaces (ailerons, elevators, and rudders) which were not now fabric-covered, but they were also made of corrugated metal in making airframes strong but light.

 

These basic principles were the picked up by an American called William Bushnell Stout who adapted an airframe very similar to Junkers single-engined Fokker F.VII and even then still using the same airfoil cross section at the wing root. But Stout required investment to further his designs and his company. And so he asked for shares to create a new aircraft company In the early 1920s called Stout Metal Airplane Company.

Henry Ford, along with a group of 19 other investors including his son Edsel, invested in the new company and very quickly in 1925 bought out the company lock stock and barrel and then Henry Ford also had an aircraft manufacturing company as well as his car company.

 

The result was the single-engined Stout monoplane which was then turned into a trimotor, the Stout 3-AT with three Curtiss-Wright air-cooled radial engines, and it flew for the first time June 11th, 1926. The original (commercial production) 4-AT had three air-cooled Wright radial engines. It carried a crew of three: a pilot, a copilot, and a stewardess, as well as eight or nine passengers .The later 5-AT had more powerful 420-hp (320-kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial piston engines, accommodation for two pilots, a stewardess and now 13 passengers, the wingspan was increased by 3 ft 10 in (1.17 m).

 

Success for the aircraft was immediate, The Tri-Motor now nicknamed the "Tin Goose" was cheap ($42,000 in 1933 which is about $736,000 in 2013), strong and reliable and that was all you required to start an airline service. Just under 200 were built as aircraft design advanced very quickly and the stalwart DC2 and Boeing's 274 suddenly became the aircraft to have.

 

In July of 1929, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) then inaugurated “coast to coast” air/rail service. This was a route developed by Charles Lindbergh, and passengers could cross the country in 48 hours travelling by rail at night and Tri-Motor by day. TAT would later become TWA and soon inaugurate all-air service from coast to coast. and many other American airlines emerged with the Tri-Motor like American Airlines, United Airlines and Pan American Airlines flew and also created significant routes like Miami to Cuba under the wings of this aircraft. And many aircraft were used by the military as well as C-3 and C4A's. You also have to understand how much Ford and this aircraft helped in introducing many aspects of the modern aviation infrastructure, including paved runways, passenger terminals, hangars, airmail, and radio navigation, he created the airport from the field innovation.

 

More so that on November 27th and 28th, 1929, Commander Richard E. Byrd (navigator), chief pilot Bernt Balchen, and two other crewmen, the copilot and the photographer, made the first flight above the geographic South Pole in a Ford Trimotor that Byrd named the Floyd Bennett


Significantly many Tri-Motors still survive today, 18 are still in existence and eight are still airworthy and one of the most famous was the Scenic Airways Ford Trimotor N414H which was used for 65 years as a sightseeing aircraft flying over the Grand Canyon.

 

Sadly these few if great aircraft was Henry Ford's first and last foray into personal aircraft production but the Tri-Motor was not to be Ford's last venture in aircraft production. During World War II, the largest aircraft manufacturing plant in the world was built at the Willow Run, at his Michigan plant, where Ford produced thousands of B-24 Liberator bombers under license from Consolidated Aircraft.

 

Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT

One of the most brilliant things in simulation is you get the chance to enjoy these great pioneering aircraft. I loved VSKYLABS amazing DC-3 only a short time ago (and still fly it regularly) and now here is the famous "The Tin Goose".

 

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Overall the modeling is not bad, the Fokker style corrugated surfaces and the metal wings are faithfully reproduced, but all surfaces are more in a light grey and not in the silver, silver metallic look you would expect.

 

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You have to be aware of how basic these aircraft really where, although advanced for their day, they are at their heart a very simple machine with just the very basic items required for flight.

 

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Nice highlight is the metal cowling around the rear of the front engine. The Wasp radial piston engines R-1340 which was a nine cylinder, air-cooled, radial piston engine with 1,340 cubic inches of displacement (hence R-1340).

 

Engine detailing is very good, and important on an aircraft of this era. The intricate inlet and exhaust outlet valves cover mostly the air-cooled inner cylinders (think Volkswagen air-cooled engines) and the exhaust manifolds are connected to a circular exhaust exiting under the airframe with the front engine and to the side on the outer engines. They look very fragile today, but they were more solid and reliable than they looked, only strange thing is the outer engine cowlings on some liveries have a tendency to go transparent from some visual angles?

 

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The double-spoon like "Standard" propellers and don't twist for feathering, they are well done and look authentic.

 

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Another note to this era is the external wire or cable pulley system to the control surfaces, the front cable is the rudder and the rear is the elevator.

 

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It does look extremely fragile and a primitive way of flying the aircraft, but even fast jets and airliners used this system only to a few decades ago, only you didn't see the cables exposed like you do here.  They are fascinating to operate and watch in action.

 

Front undercarriage is solid, with the huge balloon tyres do most of the suspension work. Modeling is good, solid without being exceptional.

 

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Rear passenger door opens, but only from the inside. You can use F keys to open and close four items including the rear door Shift F1, internal bathroom door Shift F4 and two strange ways to carry your suitcases...  in the wings?

 

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Press Shift F2 to open the right side luggage rack to drop down from the wing, or Shift F3 for the left rack...  all animations can be set with the sliders as well.

There is no static elements or external features, menus are not provided either.

 

Cockpit

The cockpit is beyond weird!  Part airship, part car and part battleship and a bit of WW2 bomber thrown in for good measure.

 

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No yoke or joysticks here, just a hybrid wheel and left over Ford Model A parts. The four on the floor is your hand-operated "Johnny brake" or Johnson Brake.

 

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The control system is very basic as both yokes are mounted on a single crossbar, forward and back in your pitch and turn the wheel for bank.

 

Instrument panel is basic. Centre instruments covers air speed (MPH) top, then three instruments covering Altitude, Turn Rate (bank) and Pitch (Climb/Descend) in 1000ft markers. Lower panel is a clock and AMP gauge, and that is it. Far left is a basic COMM 1&2, NAV 1&2 and ADF 1&2 radio with a transponder set below.

 

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Right panel is the engine readouts for RPM and the temperatures for the Engine and Oil. But these dials are only for the front engine? If you want the RPM and Temperatures for either the left or right engines, you have to look out at the particular engine strut as the dials are located out there. 

 

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An early style of pedestal has the lovely three throttle levers set up on top. Lower front are the three engine start switches and ignition, lower pedestal is the mixture with RICH and LEAN. A lower lever is for the front engine carburettor heat.

 

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Electrical switches are under the co-pilot's seat? Including the Master, GEN (generator) and Position (Navigation), Landing Lights.

 

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There is case behind the co-pilot's seat that if pressed will bring up a GNS430 at the top of the main window strut, it is very small but can be opened in a window for use.

 

Cabin

Think old fashioned Wild West Railroad and you will understand the design of the Tri-Motor's cabin.

 

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Wicker chairs and simulated gas lighting is so very far removed from Boeing latest LED mood lighting, I don't know if I could sit in them flying for hours of a time, but the seat pitch is brilliant!  The curtain design is simply awful, flat, looks more like wood than fabric and not very realistic?

 

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But the cabin window view is excellent, and in these slow, low altitude aircraft the views must have been heavenly is noisy.

 

There is a bathroom in the rear, with a full sink and toilet...   Again toilet space you can dream of today, you can actually turn around in there...

 

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Overall the cabin was quite dark, it is very hard to get any light into the internal areas of the aircraft

 

Flying the Tin Goose

Starting these old radial Wasp's is a bit of fun, until they don't start. Like anything with carburettors you have to be patient and get the mixture and throttle positions correct. Part of the problem is in X-Plane that you have to lock in your throttles in together, as you can't assign an left or right throttle to each engine, so the throttle position is the same for every one of the three engines.

 

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So it is mixture RICH, unless you over flood those carburettors, then throttle to about a third. Then you have to primer pump the engine (three strokes) then turn the particular engine's Magneto IGNITION switch to start...  Then pray!

 

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That is starting the centre front engine, but what of the other left and right engines?

 

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Well the engine primers and carburettor heat is up high behind you on the bulkhead?

 

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Also up here is the fuel tank switches, fuel tank gauges and elevator trim controls...  yes you have to physically get out of your seat to set the aircraft's

trim? In X-Plane we can get around that by having a pop-up screen with those controls, switches and dials, in this case you press the button on the panel for it to open.

 

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The tailwheel is locked so the Tri-Motor is easy to taxi, but it is hard to see out of, I had a habit of taxiing too close to one side of the taxiway...

 

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The pilot's and co-pilot's side windows open, in the real aircraft it would be easier to stick you head out to taxi...  but this is X-Plane.

 

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You have to use the throttle slowly to get away as this is taildragger and getting the air around the ruder for control, but there is far more power than you expected and the Tri-Motor is more faster and less lumbersome than you expect it to be. Again I still held my takeoff run too far to the left?

 

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The Tri-Motor is certainly a more feel than instrument aircraft, in fact you barely look at the instruments, except for the vertical pitch guide. Takeoff is around an easy 95mph.

 

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There are no flaps to set, in fact nothing at all but put up the power and fly...

 

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You never really get used to that heavy battleship wheelhouse feel in the cockpit, it is weird!

 

Climb is just under 1000fpm at 950fpm, which is very good for an old aircraft and you settle down at a top speed 135 mph and with a cruising Speed 115 mph. Your range is an impressive 510 miles (normal), 650 miles (maximum/ferry) and you can climb as high as 17,000ft with a ceiling at 18,500ft which is highly impressive.

 

You must switch the fuel tanks via the pop-up screen and not the real bulkhead switches for you to get the transfer, and obviously setting the trim up there is hard, or interesting depending on the way you do it.

 

Overall though the Tri-Motor is not an hard aircraft to fly...  it is very basic with a basic sort of semi-heavy aircraft feel, so don't think you need any special flying skill's to fly an aircraft this old...   because you don't

 

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Sound is FMOD, so they are modern and not bad, nice aspect is you feel the bass and thrumming of the radial engines, so there is nice comforting noise as you thump your way through the air. Autopilot...  "get outta here"...   Your it mate!

 

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So correct trimming of the aircraft will take away a lot of the hard work at the yoke except to point it where and which way you want to fly.

 

So the feel is nice, if like I say basic. In landing you don't have any aids or flaps, so it is strictly stick and rudder stuff. Landing is a little tricky in seeing the runway with that all heavy metalwork around you and in your line of sight.

 

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Stall is around 64mph, so an approach is usually around 95mph to say just under 80mph on landing. There are no reversers or airbrakes, and you can't hit the brakes either unless you want to flip the aircraft end over end...

 

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So you have to run the speed off as much as you can while steering the aircraft straight, which is slightly harder than said. Eventually the Tri-Motor will settle and you can taxi off the runway with now a slight touch of the brakes. Landing on a grass runway does help a little more in running off the speed more quicker, but most will still land on the harder surfaces.

 

Lighting

The internal lighting is about as basic as you can get. The dials on the panel faintly glow in the dark, but you can adjust the overhead lighting via a panel knob to give you some more light to read the instruments, but overall this would not be an aircraft that would have been flown at night.

 

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The cabin looks like it is lit by candles in a horror ghost haunted house film, dim and dimmer.

 

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External lighting is again basic. Two good wing landing lights help, but otherwise there are just three position lights (navigation) and no strobes.

 

Liveries

There are nine authentic liveries including : Ford (default), TWA, Pan American Airlines - PAA, Northwest Airlines, NAT - National Air Lines, TAT - Transcontinental Air Transport Inc, Stout Air Lines, American Airlines and a blank livery.

 

 

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 Ford.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 Ford.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 TWA.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 TWA.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 PanAm.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 PanAm.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 Northwest.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 Northwest.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 NAT.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 NAT.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 TAT.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 TAT.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 Stout.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 Stout.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 American.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 American.jpg

Ford_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 1 Blank.jpgFord_Tri_motor_5AT_Livery 2 Blank.jpg

 

Summary

What you get here is a transport, a transport in time to another era of when airline operations where in their infancy, the start of a new era and one that will in time totally change the world.

 

The flying was completely different as well. These aircraft are very basic, they function as only flying machines, and there are simply no gimmicks or flying aids. The Tri-Motor is just a simple flying machine pure and simple.

 

The modeling is fine, just as you don't want anything too deep and classical, ditto that on mostly everything here. There are no menu's, or standout features except for a few pop-up's and a really not needed GNS430.

 

Sounds are pretty good and the handling is quite good as well, so everything in here is not too deep or throughtful, but just a plain but old aircraft.

 

But the Ford Tri-Motor is an interesting aircraft, one you can enjoy and if you want something special to coexist with from the same period then download the "1940s Lighted Airways" feature on the X-Plane.Org...  these are a replication of the early navigation towers and their position along the early flight routes that these Tri-Motors flew along with, so you will be able to live out a bit of history as well as also learning of this bygone era...  well worth the download...

 

So lately with the excellent VSKYLABS DC-3 and now this Ford Tri-Motor, you can fly and enjoy a different era, I enjoyed it immensely as this aircraft was a simple quick ticket to the early past of aviation's glory years.

 

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The Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT by Ted Cook Productions is NOW available! from the X-Plane.Org Store here :

 

Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT

 

Your Price: $19.95
 
Features:
For X-Plane 11
  • Fmod custom sound integration
  • PBR texturing
  • A pop-up to control co-pilot functions and give quick readout of engine-mounted gauges
  • A portable Garmin 430 can be mounted in the cockpit if modern flying is desired
Documentation
  • POH manual 
  • timetables for TAT and TWA 'Coast to Coast Service'. Pilot the Tri-Motor on the routes planned out by Charles Lindbergh for the first coast to coast air service in the United States. Recreate these epic flights and enjoy the Golden Age of Aviation with the Ford Tri-Motor, one of the most significant aircraft in history.
Liveries
  • Eight liveries are included
  • Ford, Stout, TAT, TWA, NAT, Northwest, Pan American, and American. A blank paint is also included.
 
Requirements
X-Plane 11 (not compatible with X-Plane 10)
Windows, Mac or Linux
2Gb VRAM Video Card Minimum. 4Gb+ VRAM Recommended
Current Version: 1..0 (Last updated July 28th 2017)

 

Installation and documents:

Download for the Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT is  a hefty 693.70mg and the unzipped file is deposited in the "General Aviation" X-Plane folder at 768.30mb in size.

 

Documents provided are:

 

  • Tri-motor POH
  • TAT_TWA Timetables

 

The timetables allow you to recreate the original routes as set by these airlines in their early days, they are well worth simulating.

 

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

Review by Stephen Dutton
8th August 2017
Copyright©2017: X-PlaneReviews
 
(Disclaimer. All images and text in this review are the work and property of X-PlaneReviews, no sharing or copy of the content is allowed without consent from the author as per copyright conditions)
 

Review System Specifications:

Computer System: Windows  - Intel Core i7 6700K CPU 4.00GHz / 64bit - 16 Gb single 1067 Mhz DDR4 2133 - GeForce GTX 980/SSE2 - Samsung Evo 512gb SSD 

Software:   - Windows 10 - X-Plane 11.02

Addons: Saitek x52 Pro system Joystick and Throttle : Sound - Bose  Soundlink Mini

Plugins: Environment Engine by xEnviro US$69.90 : XPRealistic Pro v1.0.9  effects US$19.95

Scenery or Aircraft

- KPVG - Hampton Roads animated HD Photo-realistic airport 1.0 by Marc Leydecker ((X-Plane.Org) - Free

 

 

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